Although almost year has passed since six foot nine inch pitcher Max Watt last pitched for the Shelter Island Bucks, his shadow still looms large on Shelter Island.
The right-handed hurler from Babylon was the first of three former Island players selected in the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft, along with 2013 teammates Alex Katz and Mike Wallace. Katz was taken in the 27th round by the Chicago White Sox and Wallace in the 30th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A would-be senior at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, Max agreed to sign with the Boston Red Sox this week after they drafted him in the 22nd round last Wednesday. He opted to forego his final year at Lynn so he could join the Sox farm system.
“I was expecting to get drafted this year,” he said. “You never know how the process is going to work out. I was told by a lot of different people where I could possibly go, but the biggest takeaway is that the draft is so unpredictable.”
Max started nine games for the Bucks last season, including the first game of the championship series. He was described by General Manager Dave Gurney as the team’s ace.
“Max not only led our team in wins,” Mr. Gurney said, “he was our anchor.”
Compiling a 5-2 record in 2014, Max recorded 30 strikeouts in 49 innings. His 3.12 ERA was among the lowest in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League and his two complete games were a team best.
“I loved my experience on Shelter Island,” Max said. “I truly enjoyed every day that I was there. The players and coaches I got to play with all made me a better player, but meeting everyone on the Island made me a better person.”
Mr. Gurney, along with his wife, Laura, baby boy Kenny, brother Johnny, 3, and sister Lauren 12, hosted both Max and his friend Trevor Freeman for the 2014 season, forging a unique bond between the players and the Gurney clan.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” he said. “They treated us like family.”
Mr. Gurney, who described Max as bigger than life for his personality as much as his six foot nine inch stature, said the young athlete has become a hero to young Johnny.
After spending two seasons at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida, Max started 14 games in his final season at Lynn, going 5-2 with a 3.50 ERA. SB Nation, an online sports network, has a Red Sox affiliate blog called Over The Monster, which noted that Max’s selection means “it’s pretty clear the Sox want him in their organization.”
“I’m not a Red Sox fan,” GM Gurney said, “but I look forward to watching Max hopefully pitch in Fenway some day.”
One of Max’s highlights of living on the Island was going to the Shelter Island Pharmacy for breakfast together every morning with Trevor for “two eggs and cheese on a roll with three coffees,” he said.
Wherever they went, he said, people told them, “Go Bucks.”